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July 26, 2023

Lightning Safety Tips

Safety
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Summertime in northern Colorado is a great time to get out and explore the beauty that nature has to offer. From mountainous trails overlooking scenic views to serene waters perfect for an afternoon fishing trip, northern Colorado has plenty to offer for outdoor getaways. But with the warmer weather comes heavy thunderstorms, and with those come hail, high winds, and severe lightning. Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, it’s important to know proper safety etiquette when lightning starts to strike. Check out these lightning safety tips below, and for more storm safety resources, check out our storm safety page.

Before The Storm

The best way to stay safe when a storm rolls through is to actively avoid it. Storms have some telltale signs they’re on their way: rumblings of thunder, darkening skies, streaks of lightning through clouds, or increasing winds. If you start to notice signs of a storm, especially if you start to hear thunder, head inside! Local news or weather forecast websites can be a great resource to determine the severity and duration of storm conditions. A good rule of thumb is that you want to wait roughly 30 minutes after the last thunderclap before heading back outside.

What To Do If You’re Caught Outside In A Thunderstorm

Even when we prepare for a bright sunny day enjoying the great outdoors, the weather can change swiftly, and there isn’t always a good way to get back indoors. While your best bet is to find a safe, enclosed shelter, even if it’s a fully enclosed vehicle, a large enclosed bathroom, or another safe shelter that has four walls and a roof, these aren’t always available.

If you find yourself hiking in the mountains, the following may be able to reduce your chances of being struck by lightning:

  • Start heading for lower ground once signs of a storm appear.
  • Avoid sheltering under isolated trees, cliffs, or rocky overhangs. If you’re in a forest, be sure to stay near lower trees when possible.
  • Stay away from all bodies of water.
  • Steer clear of metal objects, such as fences, poles, powerlines, or other metallic objects, that can conduct electricity.
  • If no safe shelters are nearby, crouch down, tuck your head, and minimize your surface area. Avoid lying flat if possible.

Those who find themselves hiking in groups should spread out while still staying within seeing distance of each other. You want to be far enough to avoid multiple people being injured by one lightning strike but close enough to help if someone is injured.

If you’re boating or fishing, immediately head to shore. While boats with cabins can provide some safety, it’s better to find a larger enclosed structure on land to shelter in. If you’re caught out in a smaller boat with no cover, drop the anchor and get as low as possible.

Stay Lightning Safe Even If You’re Indoors

Just because you’re inside during a thunderstorm doesn’t mean you’re entirely safe from lightning. Even indoors, lightning can pass through metal in concrete, plumbing, and electrical equipment. While the likelihood of being hurt by lightning while inside is much lower than when outdoors, it’s best to still follow safe practices while indoors. These include the following:

  • Avoid doing anything requiring contact with water, including washing dishes, showering, or extensively washing your hands.
  • Don’t use electronics without a surge protector. This includes devices such as laptops, washers and dryers, electronic cooking appliances, or anything else directly connected to an outlet.
  • Stay away from windows, doors, and concrete, and stay off porches. Lightning can travel through metal and cause injury or shatter glass if the strike is nearby.
  • Only use cordless phones or cell phones, as corded phones are directly connected to an outlet, which lightning can travel through.

Additional Lightning Safety Tips

  • If you see someone get struck by lightning, immediately call 911. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge, so as long as the area is safe, you are able to administer first aid immediately to said victim.
  • Lightning can cause injuries beyond direct strikes. Striking metal objects that someone is in contact with, hitting a tree and causing it to splinter, passing through water or the ground, or striking nearby and causing visual or hearing impairment are all possible additional ways lightning can cause injury.
  • Lightning can strike the same place twice. Just because something has been struck once during a storm, don’t assume it is then safe.
  • If an outage occurs, report it through our outage center and check our Facebook and Twitter for updates.
  • If lightning strikes a power pole and causes the lines to go down, avoid touching the lines, as they may still be energized. Stay at least 10 feet away from downed lines and continue to make your way toward a safe shelter.
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